TOYOTA HILUX LEGEND put to the test. Many little changes. One major step forward

It’s seldom that we get excited by the prospect of handing an AMG over for a bakkie. This time it was different. Only just launched, we were itching to get our hands on this all-new Toyota Hilux flagship called Legend. The one with 150kW and 500Nm. And enough spec and luxury to make it a worthy Lexus alternative.

South Africa’s biggest selling new vehicle since the cows came home (it sold well over 4000 in lockdown September, again) is big news any day. It’s even bigger news when there’s a new one in town. And we’re privileged to get one straight off launch. So let’s not bugger around.

Legend certainly looks the part. Its imposing contemporary LED headlamps and LED fog lamps work well with a bold mouth and deeper bumper. That does away with the old sloping-back fish mouth. Unlike the dog with no bottom teeth it once was, Hilux now has proper attitude. Although among us were a tad concerned by some, let’s call them redneck touches. You can’t please them all, they say!

This one’s new Attitude Black hue is more like a bubbly ultra dark metallic blue. It’s an acquired taste and grows on you. If you don’t like the hassle of a black bakkie, good old Stellies white is one of the many other colours you can have your Legend in.

We love the optional power roller shutter and sports bar RS pack. It comes with a dust sealed (yes, at last!) rubberised load bay. And the assisted tailgate’s biggest party trick must be its central-locking function.

The big news is under the bonnet — This uprated 2.8 GD-6 engine now delivers 150kW and 500Nm. It has a larger turbocharger and a new common rail injection system. That’s a full 30 kW and 80 Nm stronger than the old one was. Hilux’s six-speed automatic gearbox also gets improved ratios, while the chassis benefits new spring rates, shock absorbers and suspension bushes. It keeps its 3.5-ton towing ability.

Test the bloody thing, dammit!

Putting Legend to the test

Cutting to the point, we wasted no time in strapping our test kit to it to blast it down our strip and explore the outcome of said 150kW and 500 Nm. Now there’s a rider here. Our test unit only had 230 km on the clock when we took delivery, 280 km when we tested it. It reminded us with the telltale break-in pong of burning manifold paint. So that 2.8 GD6 lump wasn’t quite run-in yet. Keep that in mind as you read on.

The first thing you notice when you fire this new 150 kW Hilux up, is that it’s so much quieter. No more diesel clatter. First impressions were just as good on the road. Our brand new Legend chirped those big Dunlop Grandtreks as I pulled away. And motored easily and quietly on.

Despite of the smell of burning Duco off the manifolds, Legend still delivered record double-cab diesel Hilux performance. Under ten-seconds to 100 km/h is still a tad behind our Triton record and a few hundredths off the biturbo Wildtrak. There are surely a few tenths in there once there’s 2500 or so kilos on the clock. A 4×2 will be even quicker. So watch this space when we get a better run-in 150 kW 4×2 Hilux to play with anon.

The test figures done, I took to a few local tracks among the spring flowers at the foot of old Simon to play a bit. There’s no need to bother selecting 4×4 or the diff lock, in spite of a one or two solid challenges. Or any need to try the really challenging stuff. Its off-road credentials are, well, Legend. The little I did was enough to prove that the new one’s extra grunt contributes impressively to its already ample dirt ability.

Surprisingly sorted chassis, able brakes

Pass perfect!

Leaving the old loggers tracks, I turned onto a typically manicured piece Cape secondary dirt road. Naturally, Legend once again thrived, making a mockery of that road’s evil corrugations. Enough to allow me a Dakar hallucination or two as I sped along my short cut around to the back of the village. Back on the tar I was soon on to, up and over Franschhoek Pass.

As I’m prone to, I pushed a bit there. And revelled in this bakkie’s surprisingly sorted chassis and able brakes. Well, at least they’re properly bedded in now! Like a skunk, they reminded me as I took a breather to behold the glory of a brim full Theewaterskoof Dam. The stunning flowing regional tar roads on to Elgin only served to reemphasise Legend’s supple and silent ride, decent road holding and fine handling qualities.

Steering feel is positive, quick and responsive too. But this new flagship Hilux’s most impressive aspect is the significant step it takes in drivability. It’s far easier — the added power, tweaked gearbox ratios and subtle and supple chassis tweaks may be minuscule in isolation. But they combine to make a huge differnce in how this Legend drives. You no longer feel that you’re lugging a big bakkie around.

I hooked a left onto the N2 and settled down to a lazy drive back. There’s still that friendly, if now more distant big brother burble and Legend is smooth and quiet on the road. It left me to revel in Legend’s brilliant JBL 9-speaker sound. That’s top notch for a Benz, never mind a bakkie. Those frisbee-like dash-top speakers add a bit more cabin zing too.

Benz-like sound, Lexus-like dials

I also enjoyed Legend’s further updated Lexus-like dials — they add a certain touch of class. And the 8-inch infotainment is getting better and better. Specific buttons and knobs make it easy to operate and in time, you will become fully au fait with it all. Far better than so many of these systems that force you to take your attention off the road. And God forbid, touchscreen only. Maybe next time the screen will grow a bit. That’s the trend these days, you know?

It has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto mobile mirroring. As well as Wireless telephony supported via Bluetooth with a USB input Google Maps, Waze and Apple Music. All of which I understand. And Waze, Joox, Spotify and SoundCloud which I don’t. I’ll get the kids to explain all that later. It is mostly all controllable via the tilt-length adjustable multifunction steering.

Talking of the steering wheel, it remains short on length adjustment. The rest of it is top notch and I already told you that it has a decent enough feel to it too.

It’s a pleasant place to ride. Legend packs bespoke interior accents and trim panels, switchgear and gear lever. A good few cows went into that perforated leather upholstery. That’s neatly complimented by black roof lining by day. And cool blue mood lighting by night. The feature-packed Legend adds power front pews and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. Keyless entry, push-button start and Park Distance Control.

Legend has a strong safety suit including side and curtain airbags, Toyota Safety Sense pre-collision system, Lane Departure Alert and Adaptive Cruise with traction control too. And it comes with Toyota Connect telematics including in-car Wi-Fi and 15Gb complimentary data. Toyota gives you 3-year/100 000 km warranty and a 9-service/90 000 km service plan.

Let’s wrap it up

So, how do we wrap this all up. Well, the Toyota Hilux is the king in its own right. It dominates local new car sales, month in, month out. And Toyota has its recipe spot on. But we have never really rated Hilux as the best bakkie out there over the past three or five years. Firstly, the basic platform is getting on a bit now — I for one have lost count of how many nips, tucks, facelifts and specials there have been.

But by the same token, this steady improvement — that continued strive to build on a solid platform, or foundation is right down Toyota’s Quality, Durability and Reliability road. Never mind its biggest local rivals Ranger and D-Max are also on just as old platforms and they too continually morph into better and better bakkies.

What this ensemble of countless little enhancements dons however, is to now thrust Hilux right into best bakkie territory. Without it even having to rely on that great Toyota winning recipe. Now add those two together and you have a pretty unbeatable formula. Which is great news for Toyota, not so good for its rivals… – Michele Lupini.

Images: Michele Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Toyota Hilux 
             2.8GD-6 DC 4x4 Legend RS
Engine:      2.8-litre turbodiesel I4
Output       150kW 500Nm 
Drive:       6-speed automatic 4x4
Payload:     750kg                   6
Max Towing:  3500kg                  9
0-60km/h:    3.91 sec                9
0-100km/h:   9.88 sec                8
0-120km/h:   13.84 sec
400m:        16.9 sec @ 134km/h     10
80-120km/h:  6.74 sec                9
VMax:        175 km/h
Fuel:        7.9 l/100km             7
CO2:         208 g/km                7
Warranty/Service: 3y 100K 9s/90K km  7
LIST PRICE:  R819K                   5
RATED:                              77
Tagged with: